Welcome to Smugglivus 2013! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2013, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2014.
Please give a warm welcome to Kristen, folks!
Happy Smugglivus! After enjoying Smugglivus-y traditions from afar, it sure is an honor to be joining them this year. (Performing Feats of Strength by myself at home had really gotten old…)
I’m embarrassed to say that the busy-ness of my debut year kept my reading stacks a little shorter than usual this year, but that doesn’t diminish my love for my 2013 highlights.
Before I dive into my top picks, this Smugglivus season I’m hoping to nudge to pick up any book you’ve already read and loved. One of my great reading joys of the year was revisiting a favorite of mine: Rebecca Stead’s 2010 Newbery-winner When You Reach Me. While the book awed me the first go-around with its plotting and pitch-perfect voice, this time I realized how much the book doubles as a commentary on the process of reading and writing itself. There’s really nothing better than gaining a new understanding of a book. Here’s hoping you find the same delight when you dive back into one of your favorites!
Now onto three top picks of 2013…
P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia
I cannot get enough of sisters Delphine, Vonetta and Fern! They’re back home in Brooklyn after their “one crazy summer” at Black Panther camp with their biological mother, only to discover they aren’t the only ones who’ve changed. P.S. Be Eleven embodies everything I think middle grade historical fiction should be: relevant, vivid, accessible, and honest. I love how Rita Williams-Garcia manages to tell hard truths about the world without losing a sense of fun or patronizing her readers. As a big fan of One Crazy Summer, I was worried the sequel wouldn’t live up to my expectations—but I might love this one even more. (I’m still humming the Jackson Five tunes!)
Kiki Strike: The Darkness Dwellers by Kirsten Miller
Kirsten Miller’s first book in this series, Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City, was the book that first inspired me to write for kids. I was awed by its smart, butt-kicking girl detectives (delinquent Girl Scouts, no less), its tongue-in-cheek humor, and sophisticated plot. Where was this book back in the days I was reading Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown? I wanted to write a book as exciting yet meaningful—and that respected its audience’s intelligence. The Darkness Dwellers is the third and final in the trilogy, and it doesn’t disappoint. This time the Irregulars brave the catacombs of Paris to hunt down assassins. Talk about high stakes!
Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon
Theodora’s duck life is just as she wants it to be: she does morning laps with tea cups on her head, slippers by her bedside in the same spot everyday, and pays by exact change at the store. But when wild duck Chad moves in next door with his dyed feathers and conceptual art, Theodora’s world turns upside down. It’s a hilarious, adorable story of non-conformity and friendship you don’t want to miss picking up. (And it makes a perfect holiday gift.)
As for 2014, I’m looking forward to so many books I can’t begin to share them all! Instead I’m going to cheat and tip you off to two brilliant ones I’ve read that I can’t wait for others to discover.
The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman (coming from Delacorte February 11)
I read an ARC of The Glass Casket in June, and it haunts me still. Pitched as a twisted re-telling of Snow White and Rose-Red, it’s a deep, dark, and mind-bogglingly well-told story about a town terrorized by a brutal—possibly otherworldly—murderer from the surrounding woods. Of course, it’s about much more than that. It taps into something deep about the nature of friendship, envy, and growing up. Its < span=""> href=”https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/mccormick-templeman/the-glass-casket/”>starred Kirkus review sums it up better than I ever possibly could. Good thing February is just around the corner so you don’t have to wait long.
Pointe by Brandy Colbert (Putnam, April 2014)
This achingly real story of a girl who must come to terms with her role in the abduction of her best friend after he returns home alive four years later just might break your heart—but you have to read it anyway. It’s YA contemporary with the pacing of a brilliant mystery—and it’s beautifully written to boot. If I don’t see you reading it this April, I’m going to come find you and make you…
Hm. That sentiment might not quite be in the spirit of the Smugglivus season. Here’s to more favorite reads in the year ahead! Thanks for letting me crow about mine.
Thanks so much, Kristen!